Life in Sierra Leone happens on the street, and you will never feel lonely outside. I love the buzzing, the chitchatting, the smells of smoke, fuel, food, sweat and perfume all mixed up, and the random pickup lines you hear (some of my recent favourites: “Today is International Women’s Day, I need an international date. Can I take you out?” or “I like you. You like me. Let’s go out.” or “Can I have your number? Don’t worry, I am diaspora Sierra Leonean, I will not bother you much.” or “You enjoy life too much, you need to start sharing that enjoyment. I am ready to enjoy with you, baby.”). I recently started collecting short movies of street scenes, as I think streets give you the best impression of life here in Salone – and there is so much great people watching to do! Here are some written stories.
BIRTHDAY ON THE STREETS
As you might be aware, I enjoy celebrating birthdays (remember story email no 11…), preferably different every year. This time the theme was “on the STREETS” and we started with a sunset drink on the STREET at the beach, went on to have dinner in a Senegalese STREET restaurant, where the space was too small to fit us all, we shared chairs and I ended up standing half on the STREET to give my birthday speech. We then went on to the trade fair which was happening on the STREET around the national stadium. To enter, you buy a ticket, which is then again taken away from you two meters ahead, ripped apart and thrown on the ground. Why even bother printing those tickets, if their lifetime is about 1 minute before ending up on the STREET?! But you can imagine, it was fitting for my birthday theme ;).
KAPRY, KING OF THE STREETS
Since I still do not have my car back from my mechanic who had an accident with it (a different story that fills a whole email in itself), I keep using Okadas, motorbikes, imported from India, produced as cheaply as possible so that it is affordable in developing countries, but that also means that breaks fail regularly, gears sometimes get stuck and mirrors get lost all the time. Before my okada rider goes down a hill, I normally ask about their breaks quickly, just to be sure, because it has happened before that the breaks were actually broken. A very nerve-racking experience, going down hill with broken breaks.
My personal bike rider is called Kapry, he is the vice-chairman of the local okada bike rider association and he is very content with his life, which is a nice change to the usual “ah this is bad in my life and this is not working andandand”. He also is the man who never smiles, not even when I ask him to: “why should I smile, you don’t think I look fine without smiling?”. Kapry is THE one most punctual Sierra Leonean I have met, he would call me if I am 30 seconds late and he insists on doing phone-time-checks, making sure our phones show the same time, so that we both are on time for pickups. I have got a really bad reputation with him for being notoriously late, making me feel more African than he is.
On our last bike ride, he told me about his oldest brother, who went missing two weeks ago. He just left the house “quickly” and never came back, leaving his wife and two children in total agony about his whereabouts. Kapry has checked all police stations and hospitals in the area and spent yesterday at the mortuary, looking at dead bodies for hours. He shouts over to me all this information through his helmet and through my helmet, while speeding on through evening traffic, making us nearly hit a breadseller on the street, cruising on the pedestrian way around a big truck blocking the road, telling me about how his brother’s wife is having mental issues now and how he is ready to give up on his brother, just keep on living. Life is happening and being processed on the street, the good side of life and the bad one.
And I know that the streets in your countries are much more likely to be rather empty, so you might enjoy this insight.